After yesterday’s African food, I decided to complete the experience by bopping to some African music. But this was at an unexpected spot: Union Pool in Williamsburg, a place usually teeming with obnoxious facial hair, tattoos and tacos.
But tonight, Nass Gnawa were welcomed to the stage. The vibrant, fez-topped five put on a performance of Gnawa music, 900-year-old music which references ancient African Islamic songs, rhythms and chants. There were no breaks between any of the songs, putting me into a bit of a trance. See below for a snippet:
I was particularly intrigued by the three-stringed lute (also known as a hajhuj or gimbri), which looked like an enlarged cricket bat with strings; it was soulful like a bass but with Eastern tones. It drove the entire show and was punctuated by drums, krakebs, claps and voices.
I also enjoyed how the performance wasn’t polished; it was more like they just felt the music – when to come in, when to clap, when to sing. It was rough around the edges, which conjured images of performing for a community.
My Africa education will never be complete, but it’s definitely been nudged a little closer by visiting a couple of events right on my doorstep in NYC this week.